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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
I think this book is excellent as a sort of jump start into homesteading and self-sufficiency. As with just about any encyclopedia, it does not cover subjects in great detail, but it does cover quite a few of them. In fact, its contents range from the animals one might consider having on a small homestead, information on certain foods (a section on beer making, making butter, and maple syrup, for example), ideas on how to make birdhouses, gates and fences, and poultry houses, to making baskets and much more. There is even a little snippet on knitting, making rag rugs, and what to do in the event of a wildfire. There is a section on energy (solar and wind), and, of course, a gardening section. Rest assured, I've left many topics out.

I do think it's important to note, since I know from experience that not everyone immediately recognizes this, that one book cannot even begin to do justice to such a myriad of subjects. This book is for getting your feet wet, for putting ideas in your head (for example, I had not even considered my energy source for the homestead I'm planning, until I flipped through this book and ended up in that section.)

It's got great photographs, and would be a pretty and informational coffee table book. Where I happened to know a thing or two about a subject, the book seemed mostly accurate. There is only one point right now that I would like to make clear is wrong. The photo on page 33 of some person milking a goat is HORRIBLE. That is *not*, I repeat, *not* the way one milks a goat. What's the big deal, you might say? People do things differently, right? Not in this case. If you go around yanking and pulling on the teats of an milking mammal, you are not only going to hurt the poor creature, you are also going to damage the udder, causing disease (called mastitis) or causing the animal to give less milk because of pain and stress. I can't even look at the picture, it's so clearly wrong and so clearly injuring the poor goat. It is a picture of what *not* to do. Please, please do *not* take your cue on milking goats from this book.

There are many, many wonderful books on the subject. Raising Milk Goats Successfully by Gail Luttman, Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, 4th Edition by Jerome Belanger and Sara Thomson Bredesen (if you ignore the section telling you to drown unwanted kids), and Sue Weaver's The Backyard Goat: An Introductory Guide to Keeping and Enjoying Pet Goats, from Feeding and Housing to Making Your Own Cheese are all far, far better references on how to milk. Please do more research on milking besides this book. The photo here is cringe-worthy.

Again I stress that this book is the sort that would tell you what kind of information you want to know. This book might, for example, pique your interest in making your own candles, or in raising sheep for milk (yes, milk), or making your own jelly. Once you know what you want to do with your country home, you can get the appropriate books.

Overall, I think it a good purchase, especially if you just have a vague idea about somehow producing your own food or doing useful crafts.

I've noted that some people are wondering about the relationship between this book and Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Since I own both and pursue both on a regular basis, I thought I'd give my thoughts. First of all, despite similarity in name and information, they are not the same. This book, I am sure, is not meant to be a continuation or supplement to Ms. Emery's. They simply have similar names. The most obvious difference is that while this book totes many, many photographs, Ms. Emery's has a few black and white sketches. This book has less actual information (it does give many of its pages to illustrations, after all) but is far better organised. Ms. Emery's book is older, and fantastic, as well as inclined to ramble--I enjoy the rambling, but those who prefer simple information to biographical snippets, would probably prefer Ms. Gehring's book.

This book is much more matter-of-fact than Ms. Emery's. For example, in this (Gehring) book, the section on turkeys is very matter-of-fact. It talks about some of the breeds, housing, food, slaughtering, the hatching of chicks and raising of poults (young turkeys), and diseases. These subjects are treated lightly and succiently. It's enough to know whether you would be interested in more information about the bird or not (for me, no, I don't want to raise turkeys). In Carla Emery's book, these subjects are also treated---and includes things like how turkeys make babies and recipes for turkey meat. On top of that, it adds anecdotes on turkey behavior, how some are like pets and how some terrify adult men. It's just a different feel; this book is no where near as personal. Carla Emery's book talks about her faith on occasion. It's not preachy, holier-than-thou talk, but just woven into her narrative, which is completely understandable, considering she was a Christian. Personally, I'm glad to have both. It's much easier to find information in Gehring's book, and it is very sound as far as I know. Carla Emery's book is far more emotional and personal. Both have a lot of value.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2012
It took me forever to decipher which of Ms. Gehring's books are which because the titles & descriptions are all nearly identical! I chose this one since it's apparently the paperback compilation of her 3 other books w/similar covers, and/or a combination of "Homesteading" with "Back to Basics." That was a mistake.

This is 900+ pages with the size & weight of a phone book. I tried to sit on the couch & read it, but it was heavy & awkward. This is not a book you can leaf through comfortably, nor really leave open on the counter while doing a project. Doing so would require breaking the spine, and a 900pg paperback isn't going to last very long before pages start falling out.

I've decided to return the book because the balance of info/details per topic is very inconsistent. There is a ton of useless information as filler, but they gloss over important details for the layman city dweller who actually needs this book. Lots of projects still require you to visit the store & buy electronic appliances or use mail order for supplies. Not quite "self reliant."

There are 90 (NINETY!) pages of recipes & precise instructions for canning jellies, pickles, etc, but there are only 6 pages on butchering & preparing meat, w/no useful illustrations at all. How am I supposed to know what a gall bladder looks like?

Honestly, this "Encyclopedia" would be much better as a multi-volume set of smaller books devoted to illustrated, step-by-step details of separate topics that REALLY explain things

Examples of Fluff & glossing over things:
- There's actually a section on "How to set the table" ... really?
- The "Fish" section just says "add non-chlorinated water and fish." ...Umm, what about testing pH & nitrates & cycling the system so I don't kill my new fish? Can I mix fish species?

The carpentry/woodworking section (which I was looking forward to) is utterly incomprehensible.
- No definitions or explanations as found in many other sections.
- Illustrations only show variations of tools or the final product, no step-by-step instruction.
- Large blocks of run-on sentences w/o even basic numbering or simple bulleted lists.

Pg 304: "... 2 inches is the one-sixth part of 1 foot, and whichever be the slant of the rule across the board (and the narrower the board the greater the slant) each 2-inch mark must denote a one-sixth less than 24 inches length or width is to be divided into eight parts; then as 3 inches long is one-eighth of 2 feet, use a 2-foot rule in the same way as before and mark off at every 2 inches."

HUHHHH?!?!?!

The food, baking, crafts, and gardening sections were considerably better written & well illustrated, though she often mixes metric w/imperial measurements, which is a recipe for disaster (...heh, "recipe."). The gardening tips presume you own a 10-20-acre farm. Lots of great photos throughout, but I'd trade that for a better step-by-step layout.

I'm going to try the other "Encyclopedia of Country Living," by Carla Emery. Also might try John Seymour's "The Self Sufficient Life & How To Live It." Both of those might have the exact same problems, but they seem to be the top recommended alternatives. Failing all that, I'll just print free stuff off the internet while I can, until the zombies shut down the power grid...
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2011
I am currently in the market for any and all books related to homesteading and self sufficiency. The section on animals has information on everything from bees to cows covering information like breeds, training, common ailments and information on what you would do with each animal's product from making cheese to extracting honey. The cooking and preserving section has lots of helpful hints- like how to make your own vanilla extract (which I'm going to do tonight!). I'm excited that the canning section gives equal attention to water bath and pressure canning, it really is quite an extensive a detailed section. The wood working section is full of great rustic designs great for any homestead. A detailed craft section, Disaster preparedness, Energy, Gardening, and so on an inspiring book, I'm excited to get started on some of these projects and learn more about other things.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2011
Outstanding Reference for all things on the farm or any where you live. This book is not an in depth look at any one topic but enough to get you started and going in the right direction. It is a quality book with good binding and great color throughout, a great buy at the Amazon price for sure. It has earned a place in my reference library for life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2013
I bought this book because the reviews, though few, were good (though I didn't read them, and now that I have, I see why.) It also has really cute pictures on the cover that make you think warm, farmy thoughts of living these images on your own place in some dreamy future. I've just about read the whole thing cover to cover, and I have to say this book is heavy on the cuteness and extremely light on usefulness.

In the intro the author quotes a dictionary's definition of an encyclopedia and confidently declares this book is "comprehensive" and therefore an encyclopedia. I strongly disagree.

While the book does cover a huge range of topics, it rarely treats any topic with more than the most superficial of discussions. I have experience with a great many topics in this book. Though I don't consider myself a chicken "expert" or similarly qualified with making butter, growing gardens or tanning hides, I do know more than enough to engage successfully in these tasks and do on a regular basis. On the topics which I'm knowledgeable, I found the information in this book to be extremely lacking and at times just plain wrong -- or at the very least, contradictory to what most other knowledgeable people say. On the topics which I'm less knowledgeable, I find I have far more questions than are answered by this book.

For example, the book has just 6.5 pages on chickens, and well over half of that is super cute photographs and paintings. How can less than three pages of text on chickens possibly be considered "comprehensive?" The breeds mentioned are only a tiny fraction of the breeds available, and hardly any details given about the ones she does mention. She's got overly simplified rules that are just plain wrong, such as that roosts should never be more than 2.5 feet off the ground and that a droppings board should be placed under the roost for easy cleaning. She mentions nothing about composting, natural-bottom coops which are far easier to maintain, and which many studies have proven are healthier for chickens when done properly. As far as the 2.5 foot height rule for roosts, I have no idea where she got that, but I do know that the thousands of chickens I and my friends have raised over the years have all spend most of their nights a lot higher than that off the ground and have not only been unharmed, but have in fact benefited from it for numerous reasons. For truly comprehensive books on chickens, I recommend The Small Scale Poultry Flock by Ussery and Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens. If you don't know anything about a chicken except that you can buy them from a grocery store, then the 3 textual pages of chicken information in this book will give you the absolute briefest of introductions, but I wouldn't actually buy any live chickens if that's your total chicken knowledge.

In contrast, the next section has 30 or 40 pages on baking, most of which again are pretty photos and lots of recipes. She's got three pages on blowing and dying eggs for crafts, but only six pages on butchering, and that is supposed to cover everything from killing to curing and all the lengthy steps in between. The book is HEAVILY weighted toward the superficial, the cutesy, the crafty, and NOT toward the actual gears that make a homestead run. You wont' learn how to figure out why your hens have dirty vents and how to address the problem, but you will learn how to make a cute, scented sachet. You'll find a lot of cute pictures of hens in green fields, and a few vague sketches of henhouses, but no workable blueprints. Not even close.

Truth be told, I found the book boring, superficial, unhelpful, and in no way any kind of reference for anyone who had ever lived on anything close to a real farm or a homestead; or if she did, she never did much of the actual work to keep it running. It was probably written by someone who has little or no working knowledge of the topics she writes about. I'd be willing to bet she's never butchered a hog, but has probably made a few scented sachets.

If you're like me and you want real, practical information in a book you can reference when you need real answers, look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you want to see really cute pictures of goats and be introduced to hand-painting blown eggshells for Easter decorating or pick up some new country-esque recipes, this book might appeal to you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2013
In preparing for my husband and I to move to a more self-sufficient lifestyle, I placed a large order of books. This was the only book that was a dud. The book is very large and thick and has beautiful photos, but the redeeming qualities end there.
The author has attempted to address a huge number of subjects. The pages are very think and shiny with very large pictures on almost every page. Also, the font is large, spread out, and the pages have large margins. Unfortunately this leaves very little room for actual information. This is just a surface introduction to each subject - all fluff and no real substance.
For example, there are only 5 pages devoted to the making of cheese and 2 1/2 pages of that are photos and illustrations. There are 5 pages on raising cows and over 2 1/2 pages are photos. Sure, the full page photo of the calf is very cute, but helps absolutely none in learning how to raise and care for cows. Even more strange, she wastes space on odd subjects like egg blowing, mosaic flowerpots, pine cone birds, gingerbread houses, wedding decorating, and terrariums. These do not strike me as necessary country skills.
It is basically a list of subjects on which you may want to do further research. To do so, you will have to get more books that, unlike this one, actually contain helpful information. This one is not worth the price of the book or the space on my bookshelf - I am returning it.
On the positive side, I got three other great books in my order that I would highly recommend. Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance and The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It are full of information and helpful illustrations. But my hands down favorite was The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition. I am completely amazed at the amount of information she managed to pack into one book - 1,000,000 words!
If you don't care about anything other than pretty shiny photos, you may like this book, but if you want real information and instruction, I would pass on it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2013
I have coveted this book for a while, and came across it at a trade show on sale, so I jumped on it. The seller aptly joked that he should be charging by the pound. It is a large book. I knew that with it being an illustrated book, I would be getting less text than Carla Emery's tomes provide, but I wasn't after text as much as getting a good way to leaf through subjects I may need to look up.

This book reads to me as a great starting point for someone wishing to get into homesteading, or perhaps start canning or gardening a little, to see what suits them. However, it isn't as comprehensive a how-to as Emery offers. But I knew it when buying the book. I own both, and both offer their own up- and downsides. The two books are not related, but their titles may be deceptively similar to the unwary shopper.

My general opinion of the book is favorable, as I enjoy the way it reads, and the way you get a general idea about a bit of everything. But after buying and reading a number of other books, I feel a little short-changed on subject matters I have the most interest for. I find myself running out of text when I start getting into a topic, and starting to throw sideways glances at the next item on the topic in my shopping list. But to get an idea of your general interests, and to see where you can start, this is perhaps the most easily digested book I own.

One of the biggest pluses for a family who may wish to homeschool, are the "Junior Homesteader Tip" boxes, scattered throughout the book. They offer small scale projects and experiments, that can be done together with your kids. Few books offer this kind of ideas, and sometimes, even the best of us are short on concepts for lessons.

Some of the content in this tome, such as Part III: woodworking, seems to assume prior experience in woodworking. Many of the projects provide a couple of diagrams, and just set you off about it, rather than giving a full instructable in "Kitchen Hutch 101" fashion. I would rather pay someone to teach me hand-in-hand, than take the instructions from this book to heart, as the woodworking stuff goes over my head, and I thought I was pretty handy with tools. I might rather have used the space on that 100 or so pages for delving deeper into other parts in the crafts section. As it stands, most of the content comes off as skimming the surface, giving instructions that don't get a beginner all started, and then changes subjects.

The cooking and canning instructions, to me, were actually very well laid out, and easy to read, as I've grown up with Metric, and am still adjusting to Imperial. However, I haven't checked recipes for accuracy, and I know some reviewers were saying that there are some issues with consistency on the measurements. What I like about the canning section, is that it gives you processing times by method, and altitude, in a consistently laid out table that's probably easier for me to reference than most other books.

I noticed other reviewers caught onto what I did, too. This book isn't exactly a "mini farm" or "backyard farming in the 'burbs" how-to. Its instructions will scale down to that, but it doesn't appear to be intended as such.

Many of the suburb friendly entries, such as that on chickens, barely scrape the surface, and omit what I call relevant information. The book only recommends Wyandottes or Plymouth Rocks, describing color variations as "breeds" and doesn't mention anything about selecting a breed for climate hardiness, size (smaller, so-called "Bantam" versions of breeds are entirely missing), color of eggs, personality, or maternal instinct, that many of us care about, nor anything about regulations on chicken keeping in cities, or where to look for information about them.

Considering that we are hoping to maybe one day start up a small ranch "seven miles north of nowhere", and will probably be off the power grid, I found the chapters on alternative power generation both fascinating and frustrating. They will provide you with just enough information to tickle your interest, but will not actually give enough information for deciding what you want to do with your energy choices.

If we could give half stars, I think 3.5 would be appropriate. As I stated at the beginning, I like the book, and have left it laying around the guest room for guests to enjoy, but it doesn't go deep enough into subjects, when you've been spoiled by the depth of Emery's book.

I'd say, with the three best known tomes on homesteading, if you want in-depth with phonebook density text, go for Carla Emery's "Encyclopedia of Country Living", if you want small scale farming a little in-depth, with pictures, go for John Seymour's "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It". Compared to Emery, Seymour, and the "Storey's Guide to Basic Country Skills", I would not call this book comprehensive. If you suffer from what Jenna Woginrich calls "Barnheart" (she has a book by that name), and long for a farm of your own, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living is a good starting point for further daydreaming, planning, and reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2012
This is a very enjoyable book. It is well written, and covers many many topics. The illustrations are what really sets it apart from the competition. When you approach a project without any previous experience it really helps to have the pictures to help and guide you.

My only real issue with the book is that, while it does cover a great range of topics, it doesn't go into great detail about many of them. I would rather have had more info on the actual homesteading, rather than learning to scrapbook or quilt. For most of the big projects, ie. animal husbandry, farming, pest control and things like that, it really only gives you the briefest of introductions. If you truly want to pursue the projects in detail, you will have to purchase secondary specific books to supplement this one.

This is a great quick reference book, with enough info to get you going on most basic principals of country living, but if you want to build a root cellar, you may need another resource in addition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2012
I am a bit of a novice prepper and this book was perfect. I know some old school ways of doing things but not the specifics and this book breaks it down but dosent over complicated and lots of quality illistrations. Supprised to get a 900+ page book so cheep and well written.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2013
I purchased this book thinking that it would be a comprehensive in-depth guide. I was disappointed by the fact that although it was a large book with nice pictures and covered a lot of topics it did not give the in-depth info I was looking for.
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